Hispanic Catholic priests help build bridges, convention leader says

Houston, Texas, Jun 17, 2014 / 04:02 pm (CNA).- A national gathering of Hispanic Catholic priests in Houston aims to build community and affirm their role as “bridges” between the Hispanic and non-Hispanic faithful, one leading priest has said.

“We are the bridges between both communities,” Father Andres Mendoza, president of the National Convention of Hispanic Priests, told CNA June 16.

He said the upcoming national convention aims to help priests to understand that they are priests “not only for the Hispanic community, but also for the Anglo community.”

The National Convention of Hispanic Priests of the U.S.A. will hold its 25th national gathering at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Houston Sept. 29-Oct. 2.

Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Evangelium Gaudium” will be one focus of the convention.

The gathering will feature several Masses as well as conferences and workshops. Some convention sponsors will host tables relevant to ministry to Catholic Hispanics.

Fr. Mendoza said that the number of Hispanic seminarians is growing, as is the number of Hispanic priests participating in the convention. More non-Hispanic priests interested in learning about how to serve the Hispanic community are also attending the gathering.

Speakers will include Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, and Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock.

Auxiliary Bishop George Sheltz of Galveston-Houston will preside at the convention’s opening Mass at St. John Fisher Church in Richmond, Texas. Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin will deliver the homily.

The closing Mass, celebrated by Bishop emeritus Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M., will honor religious sisters who minister to the Hispanic community. A banquet will honor Archbishop emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston with the “El Buen Pastor” award for his leadership and support of Hispanics and Hispanic priest in his archdiocese.

Fr. Mendoza said most Hispanic priests are bilingual and can serve both Spanish- and English-speaking communities.

“That helps us to have a greater vision of the Church in the United States,” he said.

According to Fr. Mendoza, Hispanic priests often suffer from a “lack of leadership” in the U.S. The convention intends to help address this through leadership programs that help Hispanic priests “be more immersed in the pastoral reality of this country.”

More information is available at the convention website www.ansh.org.

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